Quiet bars and empty stadiums replace raucous crowds on derby day

Quiet bars and empty stadiums replace packed pubs and raucous crowds as Merseyside and Old Firm derbies are hit by coronavirus lockdowns in Scotland and Liverpool

  • Two local derbies – Everton v Liverpool and Celtic v Rangers – took place today
  • But both Mersyside and Old Firm derbies had to be played behind closed doors
  • Before coronavirus, Goodison Park and Celtic Park would be full to capacity
  • Today, the stands and local pubs stayed quiet in line with Covid restrictions

The typical rowdy derby day atmosphere was today replaced by quiet bars and empty stadiums as the Merseyside and Old Firm matches were hit by coronavirus lockdowns in Glasgow and Liverpool. 

Football fans have not been allowed back into stadiums since football restarted in June and August for England and Scotland respectively.

But new coronavirus measures – putting Liverpool in a tier 3 lockdown and Scotland in the midst of a circuit breaker lockdown – appear to have kept derby day fans away from the grounds’ surrounding locale as well.

Before coronavirus, a Merseyside derby would see Everton’s Goodison park full to its 39,500. The same goes for Celtic Park’s 60,000 capacity on any given Old Firm derby.

Today however, the stands lay silent, as did the most of the local pubs that would normally be booming, packed to the rafters with fans unable to get a ticket to their team’s derby games: Everton v Liverpool and Celtic v Rangers.

An empty Goodison Park provided the backdrop of today’s Merseyside Derby, which saw Everton take on Liverpool in their first clash of the 2020/2021 season. Unfortunately, there were no fans to witness the thrilling 2-2 draw

Celtic Way, the iconic avenue infront of Celtic Football Club’s Park Park Head Ground, had a heave police presence ahead of the Old Firm Derby today to stop desperate fans from gathering near the stadium

Riot vans and uniformed officers stood around all four corners of Goodison Park to deter Everton fans, but despite the police presence and restrictions, some fans fans still went to the ground for the 237th Merseyside derby.

In Glasgow, seven police vans were in attendance as the Green Brigade – Celtic’s ultras – let off flares and unfurled a banner as their team arrived at the stadium ahead of the match against their bitter rivals, but no arrests were made.

Liverpool and the Mersyside region are in the highest coronavirus tier 3 with people banned from mixing indoors with people they do not live with or in their support bubble. 

Fans were seen carrying crate of beer to friends’ houses to watch the game on TV as it was played behind closed doors, and there were queues outside The Winslow Hotel boozer by the main stand. Many pubs, however, stayed shut.

Before coronavirus, a typical Old Firm derby would see Celtic Park’s 60,000 seat capacity filled. Pictured: Rangers and Celtic fans segregated during a 2017 Scottish Premiership match

Goodison Park’s 39,500 seats are also typically filled when Liverpool – Everton’s bitter local rivals – visit on derby day. Pictured: Goodison Park on derby day in 2019

Security guarded the entrance as police looked on, and fans had to book a slot to watch the game, but it was allowed to stay open because it serves food.

In Scotland, both Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and Celtic boss Neil Lennon earlier pleaded with fans of Rangers and Celtic to stay at home and not risk spreading Covid-19.

Celtic coach Neil Lennon said: ‘Don’t put yourself or anyone else in jeopardy,’ while Rangers boss Steven Gerrard said: ‘The priority here is fans’ safety and I urge them to stay at home.’ 

Liverpool and the Mersyside region are in the highest coronavirus tier 3 with people banned from mixing indoors with people they do not live with or in their support bubble. Pictured: A street in Liverpool lays quiet on derby day

The iconic Bristol Bar, Duke Street, Glasgow, less than a mile from Park Head would normally be filled with Rangers fans on an Old Firm day but today was shut because of restrictions in Scotland

Hundreds of supporters n the east end of Glasgow ahead of the Old Firm fixture, and flares and smoke bombs could be seen as the team coaches headed to the stadium.

Cops were on hand as supporters chanted while walking up to Parkhead, and the incident was over quickly with police moving the group away from the stadium within minutes.

Many Rangers fans are thought to have travelled to England today, specifically to Blackpool to watch the match, worrying police and health officials as well as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

Today: Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin scores their second goal in the Merseyside derby in front of an empty stand 

Connor Goldson celebrates scoring against Celtic at Celtic Park, also in front of empty stands

Speaking during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday ahead of the match, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told fans not to travel to other parts of Scotland or to areas in England where such restrictions are not in force.

Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I’m afraid that watching football, no matter how essential it might feel to some, does not fall into that essential category.’

After the game, Superintendent Stevie Dolan said: ‘Despite there being no spectators, a policing plan was in place in case of any issues outwith the stadium. 

‘Disappointingly, despite the clubs, government and police asking people to do the right thing and stay away, a minority of fans did gather near Celtic Park ahead of the match and pyrotechnics were used. 

‘Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance, and encourage compliance, only using enforcement as a last resort. 

‘We will continue with that approach, but we will not hesitate to use enforcement action where it is necessary.’ 

Rangers fans outside Celtic Park celebrate their team’s victory against Celtic during the Old Firm match in Glasgow. Ahead of the match, Celtic fans had gathered and let off flairs

While pubs across Central Scotland are closed due to lockdown restrictions, some in Merseyside stayed open for the game.

Everton fans were seen sitting around tables full of beer glasses and tomato ketchup bottles in the Neville Southall bar, while several police officers visited the pub which has dubbed itself The Peoples Pub. 

One fan, who went outside to have a cigarette and as he watched local children kicking a ball against Goodison’s main stand, said: ‘It’s crammed in there. There’s not much tier three going on in there.’ 

Another, Sean Millar, 20, said: ‘There’s been a few bizzies come to speak to people behind the beer. There’s more than 50 fans in there for sure but it’s OK as they are serving food and you had to book a slot. I wasn’t going to miss the game.’ 

There were also a handful of fans watching the game with food at The Goodison Cafe next door, while some fans had decided to watch the game at friends’ houses surrounding Goodison Park. 

One said: ‘I’ve bought a box of beer and my mate just lives round the corner. It’s not as good as getting in but it’s better than nothing as I’m by the ground.’ 

One Berwick landlady wasleft furious after being threatened with closure by officers policing the town on the day of the Old Firm derby

Everton fan Liam Smith, 24, said: ‘It feels very strange with the streets empty. There’s police everywhere and everyone knows they shouldn’t mix but it’s the derby. Most fans are watching it at home with or with mates.’

Most match day pubs around Goodison were closed around the city. Across Stanley Park, pubs around Anfield were also shuttered up with the official Liverpool Supporters Bar closed.

Liverpool and Everton fans were seen watching the game in the Wiliam Gladstone pub. However council licensing officers were seen visiting pubs including Harrisons. 

In Scotland, one Berwick landlady was left furious after being threatened with closure by officers policing the town on the day of the Old firm derby.

Margaret Straughan, licensee of the Brewers Arms, said during the week she had fielded ‘hundreds’ of calls from supporters eager to catch the action and had chosen not to show the match.

Margaret Straughan, licensee of the Brewers Arms, said during the week she had fielded ‘hundreds’ of calls from supporters eager to catch the action and had chosen not to show the match

But on the day itself most supporters appeared to have heeded the warning to stay away.

Although the centre of Berwick was busy with people for Market Day, very few football fans could be seen in the streets.

Odette Hume, landlady at The Red Lion, said she had been left feeling intimidated by the heavy police presence.

She told ChronicleLive: ‘I’ve had riot squads in today – very intimidating and threatening to close us down if we’re over our numbers.

‘We have a capacity of 60 and we’re currently at 42, which is certainly not over our numbers. I show every Rangers match, it’s a Rangers pub.

‘It makes me feel angry because Berwick police have been in before and they’ve always been happy with the seating. We have no trouble here.

‘There’s been a police car outside the pub for the last half hour and I just don’t feel comfortable. I’ve spoken to the chief inspector and expressed concerns about how the police were dealing with us.

‘They said I shouldn’t feel victimised and they were going round all the pubs, but it doesn’t make sense to have police coming from Sunderland and Gateshead with Covid-19 going on.’

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